Early in life I felt ill-equipped to grapple with the realities that life handed me, let alone express my views or feelings about the direction my life had taken. I would later find that poetry offers empowerment, healing and connection. For me, poetry opened a door. This door opened wider with each poem I wrote. It would become a portal to places more peaceful, meaningful and rewarding than those my life, to date, had required me to travel. Beyond that, I discovered poetry permitted me to bring others to these wondrous and enlightening places as well. I came to understand that poetry could offer a way to both express my views, concerns and questions, and also allow me to invite others to do the same.
Poetry addresses a need, yes, in the poet, but more significantly, in society as a whole. Through poetry we document -- whether to celebrate or lament the past; herald or anticipate the future; or express dreams of what could be. Poetry gives voice to the soul, and in doing so, can build bridges over obstacles and between cultural, political and generational chasms. It can bring peace by creating understanding, awareness and insight, or allow spirits to take flight and soar. Ultimately poetry allows our story, the poet's truth, to be told. I believe this is a good and necessary thing.
© by J. Joy “Sistah Joy” Matthews Alford
When the world echoes sounds that would keep us down
Poetry sends back refrains that say
Let me lift you
Let me give you insight to light your way
Cope with life's inconsistencies
Comprehend that uncertainty paves the road we all travel
Let me share ancestors' truths
With youth and elder alike--
Share with true seekers answers that empower
Let not the fear of this hour
Rob the world this cherished light
Or deny tomorrow it's victory
This is the charge of poetry
For this she shall ever reign supreme
For a lesson on relevence and connection, this poem, "The Discovery of Connectedness" was inspired by my participation in multi-disciplined workshop conducted by classical musician/conductor Daniel Bernard Roumain at the U. of MD's Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center. The issues of relationship and connection, both cultural and generational, were significant in the musically-oriented collaborations.
The Discovery of Connectedness
© by J. Joy “Sistah Joy” Matthews Alford
When we see ourselves
as but a mere, yet mandatory, speck
traversing the conduit called time
we appreciate the necessity and beauty of destiny.
We begin to comprehend
the need for purpose and direction.
Uniquely created, we each somehow complete
the montage of the universe.
Such awareness can, ...perhaps, entice us
to dance more rhythmically,
whether to the symphonic melody of Opera,
the syncopated rhythm of Jazz
or the pulse-driven beat of Hip-hop
To dance is the thing!
Ever learning new steps--
ever bending, stretching, reaching
at once forward, but also embracing
the offerings of ancestors,
valuing each signature-driven step
dancing toward the discovery of connectedness
required to complete the masterpiece.
"So we look back
Name and claim our mournings,
As freely as we seek the glory and glee of victories
Not to dwell in yesterday
Nor she in us
But to gain from her legacy, good or bad
Ancestors, elders, and tomorrow’s seed yet born
Each has or shall witness
With earthly short-sightedness
That which limits vision to all this side of Jordan..."
To view this poem in its entirety and other poems by Sistah Joy, visit
"With faith that flickers
Like fireflies in the night
We wander, float
A seemingly aimless
Seeking to take
More than give
Survive rather than live
Unaware of the beauty
And brightness of our own light
Reflections are few
When those around you
Only cast shadows
That challenge, ridicule
And dim the radiance of right..."
To view this poem, Souls Seeking Light, in its entirety, and others, visit
In my early years as a poet of conscience, I sought to collaborate with like-minded poets in sharing messages of social significance. In 1995, I founded the poetry group, Collective Voices. What began as a sisterhood of poets has today evolved into an ensemble of poets, no longer a sisterhood, but which continues to lift messages of social relevance. Collective Voices, whose members currently include Sylvia Dianne "Ladi Di" Beverly, Andre "Brenardo" Taylor and me, J. Joy "Sistah Joy" Matthews Alford, has written and performed our inspirational, motivational and empowerment poetry on radio and television; and has performed at local, national and international events. Collective Voices' international debut was in London, England in 1998. We are published individually and as an ensemble, and our works have appeared in numerous anthologies. We continue to perform, accept public speaking engagements and book-signing requests, facilitate poetry workshops and present our work before culturally diverse inter-generational audiences.
In 2005 I was requested to co-produce and host a poetry-oriented program on the County local access station. Since that time I have gone on to produce and host Sojourn with Words, along with the show's Executive Producer, Curtis Crutchfield, at CTV Studios in Largo, Maryland. The show has earned national recognition (2 Telly awards) for excellence in cultural programming and arts entertainment. Sojourn with Words airs in Prince George's County on CTV (Comcast Ch. 76 and Verizon Ch. 42) 2-3 times weekly. Poets interested in being featured should email me at Poetsistahjoy@aol.com with Sojourn with Words Poet in the subject line.
Pleased to share that the latest Sojourn with Words episode featuring the Prince George's County Youth Poet Laureate, Michaela Lacy, has begun to air. Tune in to CTV (Comcast Ch. 76 or Verizon Ch. 42) to check out this powerful young poet who is creating a buzz all over the region. Reach out to be in touch at Poetsistahjoy@aol.com if you'd like to inquire about her or my availability to present poetry at your event.
The current Sojourn with Words "encore presentations" schedule is Thursdays, 11:30 am & 6:30 pm and Saturdays at 6:30 pm. To check for schedule changes or view the full CTV weekly program listing see: pgctv.org/tv-schedule/.
DVDs of current and previously-aired episodes of Sojourn with Words are available for purchase to poetry fans, especially those outside our viewing area, by contacting CTV at http://pgctv.org/program-copies/.
Since 2003, I have served as President of the Ebenezer A.M.E. Church Poetry Ministry of Ebenezer A.M.E. Church in Fort Washington, Maryland. Ministry members are known as The Anointed P.E.N.S. (Poets Empowered to Nurture Souls). In 2016, I was named Poet Laureate of the Church, where I continue to lead the ministry through poetry-based service and community engagement.
Membership in The Anointed P.E.N.S. is open to members of the church and community poets who embrace and espouse the teachings of Christ. Activities include monthly Ministry meetings (3rd Fridays) as well as community and church poetry presentations, and 4 annual "Poetry & Praise Open Mic celebrations, which are free and open to the community. The Ministry also accepts invitations to minister at area churches, nursing homes and at community-based events. Interested poets and church officials may contact The Anointed P.E.N.S. at the Poetry Ministry Hotline, 301.265.8254; through the Ministry Facebook page, "Ebenezer A.M.E. Church Poetry Ministry;" or by email at Poetry@ebenezerame.org.
Ebenezer A.M.E. Church Poetry Ministry "Poetry & Praise" Open Mic services and celebrations take place at the church at 7707 Allentown Road, Fort Washington, Maryland, 20744. Annual scheduled celebrations include:
February - Black History Month Celebration - (3rd Friday ) 6-9pm
April - National Poetry Month Celebration - (3rd Friday) 6-9pm
June - Juneteen Celebration (3rd Friday) 6-9pm
October - National Arts & Humanities Month Celebration - (3rd Friday) 6-9pm
Dates are subject to change due to weather and church scheduling conflicts, so guests are encouraged to contact Poetry@ebenezerame.org for schedule confirmations. Official announcements are available at least 3 weeks in advance. All Poetry & Praise Open Mic services are free and open to the community. A free-will offering is accepted. Celebrations most often include performances by the Malcolm X Drummers and Dancers. Refreshments (heavy hors d'oeuvres) are served. All ages are welcomed. Inquiries, comments and membership requests to join the Ebenezer A.M.E. Church Poetry Ministry may be directed to Poetry@ebenezerame.org or the Poetry Ministry Hotline at 301.265.8254.
Be in touch at Poetsistahjoy@aol.com and let me know what you think of my new website. Let me know what you'd like to see that's not currently posted. I'll display the most frequently asked questions, and my replies, so everybody benefits.
I hope to post upcoming events soon, but for now you can find information about most of my events on my Facebook page, "Sistah Joy Alford" or my Business Facebook page, "Sistah Joy Alford - Poetry," which I'll be using less now that this new website is at least partially completed.
Each of my three collections of poetry are available by contacting me at P. O. Box 2073, Clinton, MD 20735.
Lord, I'm Dancin' As Fast As I Can - $15
From Pain to Empowerment, The Fabric of My Being - $10
This Garden Called Life - $12.50
Sistah Joy participated in a North America UN (United Nations) roundtable discussion and poetry presentation on the power of poetry to address national and global hunger. The article below provides details about this significant discussion on hunger between 4 American poets and UN officials from countries around the world.
Join Sistah Joy along with poets Patrick Washington, Hiram Larew, Reuben Jackson, Alan King, Gowri K and host, Derrick Weston Brown, at the Hyattsville Busboys and Poets for the 2018 FOLA (Festival of Literary Arts).
PERFORMANCE, DISCUSSION AND OPEN MIC
This reading/panel/open mic hosted by former Busboys and Poets poet-in-residence, Derrick Weston Brown, will showcase the rich, diverse & multi-generational poetic legacy of the DMV, while also providing a critical look into the intersectionality of the written, spoken and social justice worlds.
When: Sat., May 12, 2018
Where: Busboys & Poets
5331 Baltimore Avenue
Hyattsville, MD 20781
Sistah Joy presents her poem, "Victors, Not Victims," which appears in her book, Lord I'm Dancin' As Fast As I Can." Recorded in Jacksonville, Florida, 2016.
Coalition for African Americans in the Performing Arts (CAAPA) Executive Director, Terri Allen, presented the organization's prestigious Community Service Award to Sistah Joy in recognition for her extraordinary and continuing work in the community "in the areas of poetry, literature, spoken word and arts and humanities...as an author, advocate and activist, with dedicated service to Prince George's County Arts Community and the community at large... whose enthusiasm, diligence and commitment have not gone unnoticed."
Sistah Joy's fourth collection of poetry, Poets Don't Whisper, will be released is late 2018.